I have a good friend, Cindy, and she likes Aion. I played with her one night in Beta, and played a few other nights in the beta. Even though it was just beta, and I forgave the few issues, the game just isn't my cup of tea. I have another friend that plays in LotRO every night. While I enjoy the game, it is by far not one of my favorites.
Does this mean that something is wrong with me? Something might be off with my tastes? No, not at all. This means that I am a normal, healthy gamer.
But I hear so much talk about the "AAA" games that for a while I thought that I must be mad to consider some "non-AAA" games better than most "AAA" games. But what does "AAA" mean? To get a definition, I guess I'll get to Google. Good ole' Google.
(Looks for a few minutes. Stops after realizing that there are 5 billion definitions for the word, just like he thought.)
See, many popular words that are thrown around in gaming are defined by the individual. There are general definitions, though. In example, I asked one of my friends to stop using the word "retarded" because it was offensive when he used it to mean "people that suck." Retarded people do not suck just because they are retarded. Retarded people, just like non-retarded people, have different levels of suckage. His general use of the word "retarded" to mean "people that can't play games" was, in a word, stupid. He said he meant the literal meaning of the word, the one that means a "slow person."
If he expects me to believe that, while in the heat of a raid he screams out "...You RETARD!.." that he meant "...You are slow to respond, sir..." then he must think that I am stupid.
It's the same with "AAA". There are literal meanings for it, but in MMORPG's, it is simply referring to the largest games with the most success and the biggest budgets. But, that definition doesn't even fit most games. That fits World of Warcraft. WoW is the largest subscriber-based game out there. While there are many games that make WoW's 11 million players look like chop suey, that's 11 million people paying every month. So, does the profit equal success? ONE type of success, sure. How about critical success? How about a game with more players? Maple Story has somewhere around 10's upon 10's of millions more players than WoW. Would they play if it were not free? I don't know. Would they play it is was not FUN?
So why do people throw around "AAA" for games like LotRO, or for CoH, when there are F2P games not only making more money, but also holding onto to MILLIONS more players than those titles? Yet, those F2P titles are not considered "AAA"? Tell that to Nexon's accountant.
Could "AAA" be referring to the players experience? I think so, in most ways. When people say "..it was a AAA game.." they probably mean that the experience was more shiny, polished, finished, full...you know, a nice well rounded experience that worked and worked well. Again, it's more opinion that describes more games that are not considered a "AAA" experience. Also, that's like saying "good art." There is no such thing as "good art." There is just art, but saying that a work is good or bad (do I really need to say this?) depends completely upon the viewer. I will promise you that if I had all the magic power in the world and could magically show you what every single person thought of the greatest works of art in the world, there would be plenty that considered those masterpieces to be total wastes of space. So, who is right?
"AAA" should just be considered a general term, like "cool" or "neat." Just saying those words means "..in my opinion." It is a given that the person using those words is giving you their side of the story, but since they are talking about something as light as entertainment, they do not need to give you more details.
Bob: "How was that band last night?"
Steve: "They were cool."
Bob: "OK, I'll go check 'em out. What'll it hurt?"
So let's not use "AAA" to mean anything deeper. "AAA" has no literal measure or quantity. It is not talking about budgets or number of players, or even profit alone, so it cannot cover all games out there to it's candle of success. There are games that cost near nothing that make millions, and games that cost millions that are now gone forever. There are games like WoW that have millions of players, yet players like me think that the game is fun but only has the depth of many basic MMOs. My gut feeling is that players use the term "AAA" to describe some kind of hopeful wish, as in "This new game looks "AAA", it will be the WoW Killer" without knowing what a WoW Killer would even look like, play like, or be like; as though being the biggest game out there is somehow the only measure of quality.
Maybe that's it? Maybe "AAA" has become the new term for the burnt out gamer, the player that grows tired of games as soon as the first ding hits. Maybe "AAA" is something they are looking for, a badge they hang on a figment of their imagination? Perhaps it is just a set of three letters, that mean absolutely nothing, unless framed within a very specific conversation, like "biggest player-base" or "most profit"? Whatever it means, I never use it. I think that it's about as silly as saying "..that guy is retarded for liking bad art."